Worries over dumping near elementary: 'It's not acceptable'

Worries over dumping near elementary: 'It's not acceptable'
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — After seeing homeless men and even drug deals in an alley near a school, a Kern County woman told Eyewitness News that she wants action to clean up the mess. It turns out the area isn't really an alley, and several county agencies say they'll work to deal with the problem spot.

"I've seen little children, maybe 7 or 8 years old from the elementary school walking through this alley," Linda Hahn told Eyewitness News on Monday. "With homeless people and drug addicts sleeping on mattresses, needles, I see kids going through the junk."

She brings her daughter for regular visits to a dentist's office near the mess.

Hahn calls the situation unacceptable. It's south of Columbus Street, near River Boulevard and Water Street. That's a couple blocks from Noble Elementary School. Bakersfield City School District spokesman Steve Gabbitas told Eyewitness News no problems had been reported to the school.

But Hahn is worried, and Eyewitness News saw a couple young children walking next to the junk. We also counted five hypodermic needles on the ground, along with stacks of mattresses, broken glass, shards of metal and other debris.

Kern County Code Compliance spokeswoman Dee Benson said the area is actually part of a property listed on River Boulevard, and officers will contact the owner with a notice that it must be cleaned up. Benson says they show three specific complaints about that spot since 2003, but the general area has been a problem over the years.

Meanwhile, County Waste Management spokeswoman Aurora Rush said her office would immediately contact Environmental Health, so officers can go out to pick up any needles and get them disposed of properly.

A dentist whose office is nearby says there have been problems here for a long time.

"It's affecting my business, because a lot of people that come to my office they just come and drive off," Dr. Bhaskar Joshi said. "They look at the garbage, and they run away." He's also dealing with graffiti on the building, another eyesore with the piles of junk and debris.

"I've been complaining to Code Compliance," Joshi said. "They'll come and clean up, and again it appears."

And that's what a worker at a nearby recycling center sees, too. Rodrigo Rojas mans a center for J & R Recycling, and he'll clean up some of the trash. "Two days (later), you see all the trash one more time," he says. He says a lot of the dumping happens at night.

But, critics say the recycling center may be a magnet for some of the problem. A number of shopping carts sit nearby, probably left by people who had filled them with cans or bottles for the recycling center.

"It's not safe, it's unhealthy, it's a danger for children," Hahn insists. She wants a thorough effort to get rid of the hazards, especially with the chance that kids could get into it.

"I'd like to see it cleaned up," Hahn said. "And stay cleaned up."